Geneva Initiative Annexes
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The People Want Peace

The People Want Peace

By Ben-Dror Yemini, Maariv NRG

13.12.13
translation by the Geneva Initiative

 

A surprising survey

 
A few days ago an extensive public opinion poll was presented at the Saban Forum, which was commissioned by researchers at the University of Maryland. The respondents, Palestinians and Israelis, were presented with a peace agreement which included the following parameters: withdrawal to the 67 lines, while retaining 3-4% including the settlements blocs; a corridor between the West Bank and Gaza; a division of Jerusalem on a demographic basis, with an international, Israeli and Palestinian regime in the Old city; A refugee solution based on compensation and a return to the Palestinian state, with a limited number being allowed to return to Israel; a non-militarized Palestinian state, with an international force like NATO; Palestinian recognition of Israel as a Jewish State and a state of all its citizens; Israel and the Arab and Muslim states would establish full diplomatic relations and open trade; and Israelis and Palestinians would relinquish all claims pertaining to the conflict.
 
Multiple surveys in the last decade have reported different and conflicting results, sometimes extremely different. In the last few years one direction has become apparent: Mutual despair. Unexpectedly, given this pessimism, the results of this survey are surprising. 54% of Israelis and 41% of Palestinians supported the package deal presented to them. Could there be an Israeli majority for Yossi Beilin, Shalom Achshav and the Geneva Initiative? For real? Yes, there really could be. Amongst Likud voters, almost a third are prepared for a far-reaching compromise. That is, on the condition that it is the right which leads the process. The problem is not peace. The problem is the peace camp. And that's not all. The poll is even more optimistic than first appears. When the survey respondents who opposed an agreement where asked if they would change their opinion if the other side supported it, the results improved, dramatically. For the Palestinians it jumped 18% to 59% support. For Israelis, support jumped 9% to 63%. These are indeed very encouraging results. We need to add to these results the fact that, on the basis of prior experience, support for an agreement before it is signed is always lower than after signing. It turns out that the question is not: "is there an outline for an agreement?" nor is it: "Will there public support?". The answers to both these questions are positive. The questions is: Do we have brave leadership. Currently, the answer is negative.
 
Katyushas or Somalia?
 
It is not clear what is going on in the talks which are being managed by Tzipi Livni. It is clear that if there is a chance for an agreement, it will be along the lines of previous proposals, like the Clinton, Geneva or Olmert proposals. This is also the framework that was presented in the survey. If I had a more conspiratorial way of thinking, I would write that the principles of the agreement as presented in the survey were coordinated with the US State Department, so that Secretary Kerry could argue: Not only is there a framework, it is also supported by a majority on both sides. If and when such a framework is agreed to, it won't be easy, it won't be simple. The opposition will be huge. It is likely to lead to the spilling of blood. And not only on the Palestinian side... Despite all the drawbacks of such an agreement, on judgment day, in a referendum I would vote for it. Yes, there is a danger of the West Bank becoming 'Hamasified', and the danger of Katyushas on Ben Gurion Airport. However, there is one danger which is much bigger and is rapidly approaching: a bi-national state. Israeli would become something like Somalia, Iraq or Syria. And if choosing between a bi-national state or a Jewish state – the choice has to be a Jewish state.